All power plants present a unique set of safety challenges. One of the biggest hazards - yet one of the least discussed - is the constant presence of powerful electrical currents. While we are trained to handle high voltage equipment regularly, it’s important to keep electrical safety practices at the forefront of everyday concern. May is Electrical Safety Month, and therefore an excellent time to review both the power and potential of electrical energy. Use this quick guide to learn some of the steps you can take to keep yourself and others safe on the job as well as at home.
Know Your Voltage and What It Can Do
Different voltage levels can affect the body in different ways. While you should not come into direct contact with anything over 50 volts, you should still be prepared to handle that emergency situation. Each room with high voltage should have an emergency shower. Using personal protection equipment, or PPE, is a must at all times. In addition, rooms, especially overhead areas, should be inspected on a regular basis to help prevent accidents.
50 to 150 volt rooms should be guarded at all times. This level of exposure can cause a great deal of bodily harm, so you should use appropriate PPE. 151 to 600 volts cannot be tolerated by a human. Secure and guard the room, leaving only small spaces to add foreign objects. Rooms with equipment that uses over 600 volts require the utmost caution. Because of this very high amount, you should stay at least 8 feet away from the power source. It is crucial to keep everything isolated, well-maintained and guarded.
Having authorized access to a room is important. If you don't have the training to handle the electrical sources in the area, you should not be in it under any circumstances. Lead by example and only visit areas of your plant that you have access to.
There are several other things you can do to ensure your safety and the safety of others. The biggest thing is to clearly mark any restricted areas. Warning signs, especially ones with both international symbols and words, help people know where they can and cannot go. If the equipment you are using involves dangerous chemicals or high voltage, consider having someone guard the entrance as well.
Part of keeping people out of restricted areas is making sure that they have no reason to go there in the first place. Never send someone inside just to press a button or retrieve a lost object. If the room is shared with a storage or equipment room, make sure the electrical areas are sectioned off, with several feet of walking room.
Before you leave the area, you need to double check to ensure everything is turned off. Unattended, working equipment can lead to electrical fires and explosions. After ensuring everything is powered down, secure the area before leaving.
Electrical Fire Prevention
Not all electrical incidents result in injury. Practicing working with electricity safely can help prevent environmental disasters and asset loss. Fires, for example, are a very real possibility when you mishandle electricity. Electrical fires don't just put you and your coworkers at risk, they can also cost several million dollars in repairs.
One thing you can do to prevent fires is to check the equipment before use. Make sure that it is in good repair and that you are using flame-retardant cables. While some power plants cannot remove all fuel sources and ignitions from an area, they should know how to reduce the growth of fire. Invest in good fire barriers and try to find ways to reduce exposure to fire hazards in the workplace.
Continuing Electrical Safety at Home and Work
Electrical safety concerns are by no means limited to the power plant workplace, electricity is everywhere and essential to daily living. To learn more about protecting your home and preventing additional electrical-energy related disasters, visit one of these online resources or stop by the Electrical Safety Foundation website.
Electrical hazards are very common in nuclear power plants. Do your part to ensure that you and your coworkers are safe around powerful electrical equipment. Keeping areas secure with guards and posting warning signs can help alert coworkers to the dangers of working in an area. Lead by example by wearing personal protection equipment and by ensuring everything is powered down before leaving your area. By avoiding hazards, promoting awareness and practicing safety, we can protect ourselves, those around us and our property for years to come.